Since its creation in 1895, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) has been accepted by cooperative societies worldwide as the final authority for defining cooperatives and for determining the underlying values and principles that govern the cooperative enterprise.

The ICA in its 1995 statement of cooperative identity defined a co-operative as:

“An autonomous association of persons united to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise”.

Unlike a social or religious welfare group, a cooperative society is an organization that primarily engages in business for the purpose of delivering dividends and other economic benefits to their members.

Every cooperative society has within it great potentials for success; sadly many cooperative leaders are ignorant of this with adverse consequences for their cooperative societies. Indeed this has resulted not only in many cooperative societies punching far below their weight but some have in fact collapsed. This paper aims at assisting individuals and cooperative societies achieve success by handing them the keys to discovering, unlocking and fulfilling their great potentials.


We have identified ten keys that will help cooperative societies fulfill their potentials, namely, Vision, Planning, Action, Optimism, Organization, Hard work, Corporate Governance, Passion, Perseverance and The God Factor. These keys though not exhaustive are veritable tools that can be used by individuals and cooperative societies desirous of great success.


“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”-Jonathan Swift. It is painting a clear picture of an ideal future that inspires people to action. “Indeed, the world of great opportunity is available now, as it has always been, only for those with great vision”-Andrew Carnegie.You should “cherish your vision and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate accomplishments”Napoleon Hill. Vision among others entails (a) Setting S.M.A.R.T goals i.e. your goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound – otherwise you will swim aimlessly in an ocean of infinite possibilities and (b) Innovation. It enables a person to see change as an opportunity and not threat-Steve Jobs. It is the key to business survival as no business organization including a cooperative society can survive for many years without constant innovation.

As the world changes, every business organization must make necessary changes to remain relevant. The idea or line of business that made it profitable in years past may not guarantee its survival in today’s world. Through innovation, a cooperative society that once only had thrift and credit as its sole income source can develop other streams of income to include real estate, manufacturing, trading e.t.c.


The importance of planning to un-locking the best in an individual or cooperative society cannot be overemphasized. “A goal without a plan is just a wish. Success doesn’t just happen it is planned for”Anonymous.“A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there”H. Stanley Judd, it involves doing Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats and Opportunities (S.W.O.T) analysis of an intending business to determine its viability. This will help you avoid the sheep mentality that currently dominates business and investment decisions in Nigeria. “A clear vision backed by definite plans gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power”-Brian Tracy.Indeed, “failing to plan is planning to fail”- Alan Lakein.


In the real world, it is not enough just to dream, visualize and make plans; you must take action to actualize your goals. The distance between your dreams and reality is called action. “An inch of movement will bring you closer to your goals than a mile of intention”Steve Maraboli. “The secret to success is to stop wishing and start doing”Steve Jobsand “the most effective way of doing it, is to do it” – Amelia Earheart.“If people advance confidently in the direction of their goals and endeavour to live the life they have imagined, they will meet with success unexpected in common hours”-Henry David Thoreau. Be courageous, know that successful people are not immune to fear; they take action in spite of fear. Move away from fear by acting courageously. “God has not given you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of boldness, for the righteous are as bold as the lion” –2 Timothy 1:7

4. OPTIMISM                                                                                          

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement”- Helen Keller. It is seeing the world as a glass half-full and not half-empty. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”-Winston Churchill. Believe in yourself, otherwise you will struggle all the days of your life. Nothing sabotages success like low self-esteem. Think as a confident person as “You become what you think about all day long.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. Stay positive in spite of the negativity around you. Avoid engaging in complaining or lamenting conversations. Hang out with optimistic people and use positive affirmations like, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me”, –Philippians 4:13He can who thinks he can”- Orison Swett Marden.


Organization is the ability to manage human and material resources, develop strategies that will concretize your vision and policies resulting in the actualization of your goals. It involves the use of emotional intelligence which entails understanding yourself and using this understanding to manage yourself and your relationship with others. It makes you realize that everything is not about you, that no man is an island and to succeed, you need to embrace team work and like Isaac Newton learn to stand on the shoulder of giants. In Newton’swords, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulder of giants”. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual”Vincent LombardiThe following immutable words of Henry Fordshould guide the actions of a cooperative desirous of being successful- “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress and working together is success”.


It is indispensable to success. “There is no substitute for hard work”-Thomas Edison,as there is no short cut to success. “Faith without good works is dead” –James 2:1. “A dream does not become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work”-Collin Powell. Hard work and dedication are Floyd Mayweather Jnr’s keys to success. Many people attribute the successes of others to luck but the truth is that there is a correlation between hard work and what is considered good luck. Hard work puts you, where good luck can find you. “It seems the harder I work, the more luck I have”- Thomas Jefferson. “Hard work always beats talent when talent does not work hard, so let them sleep while you grind. Let them party while you work. The difference will show”- Anonymous.Important as it is, hard work alone is not enough to guarantee success, you must also work smart. An example of working smart is applying technology to make your work easier, faster and more efficient. No matter how hard the staff of a cooperative’s accounting department work with manual book keeping, another cooperative’s use of accounting software, will make the latter’s operations more efficient than the former’s.


Good Corporate Governance is a key element that guarantees the success of any organization including cooperative societies. In the cooperative context, it entails strict adherence to cooperative principles and values and compliance with cooperative laws, byelaws and regulations. Erroneously, the success of a cooperative is usually hinged only on the effective performance of the management committee while overlooking the fundamental roles of members. This is largely due to the lackadaisical attitude of many members to the affairs of the cooperative, concerning themselves only with receiving dividends and obtaining loans from the cooperative. Members must realise that they are the owners of the cooperative and meeting their needs is the primary reason for the cooperative’s existence. Good co-operative corporate governance entails participation by members in the cooperative’s affairs, equity, equality, inclusiveness, responsiveness, transparency and accountability, adherence to due process, effectiveness and efficiency.

It is about ensuring that the co-operative remains relevant to members and performs well by linking members, board/committee, the management and employees to the policy, strategy, and decision-making processes. By far the greatest guarantee of corporate governance is members’ control over the affairs of the society through effective participation. This is achievable by among others attending and voting at meetings, electing a competent board/management committee, being knowledgeable about the operations of the cooperative society, appointing supervisory committee members and scrutinizing the cooperative’s annual report.


“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”- Jack Welch. “Champions are not made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”- Muhammad Ali.To be successful you must ignite your passion, “you must love what you do and do what you love. Passion is the key that opens the door to joy and abundance”-David Cuschieri.“To succeed, you have to believe in something with so much passion that it becomes a reality”Anita Roddick. People with great passion can make the impossible possible. According to Michael Dell, “Passion should be the fire that drives your life’s work”. You must have a passionate desire to succeed. Regarding importance of desire Glenn Clark, in his classic book “The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe” said

“Every man has consummate genius within him. Some appear to have it more than others only because they are aware of it more than others are and the awareness or unawareness of it is what makes each one of them into masters or holds them down to mediocrity. Mediocrity is self-inflicted and genius self-bestowed .Every successful man and they are many, carries with him the key which unlocks that awareness and lets in the universal power that has made him into a master. That key is desire”.


Passion gets you started, hope keeps you going, and persistence gets it done. When you are knocked down by the vicissitudes of life and increasingly find obstacles and road blocks at every turn, you must not give up for “the difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination” –Tommy Lasorda.According to Thomas Edison,“our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time”. He should know having repeatedly failed in his quest to make the electric bulb before finally succeeding. He captured his seeming failure in these words, “I haven’t failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. “Success a joy, failure only postponed success”Frank Duff.

You must realize, that “it is darkest just before dawn”Thomas FullerAccording to Rev Martin Luther King Jnr-“If you can’t fly, then run; If you can’t run, then walk, If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward”. You must never give up because “Our lives are not determined by what happens to us; but by how we react to what happens to us; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst…. a spark that creates extraordinary results” –Anonymous. “It is the constant and determined effort that breaks down all resistance, sweeps away all obstacles” –David Joseph Schwartz. “The key of persistence will open up any door that has been closed by resistance”John Di Lemme. Great things come from hard work and perseverance –Kobe Bryant. “Allah is with those who patiently persevere”- Quran 2.153.


An often overlooked but the MASTER KEY to success is the God factor. It means standing on God’s promises, trusting in Him and believing that nothing is impossible with Him. While you plan, God laughs. Your life may not be going the way you planned it but it is going exactly the way God planned it, “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”Jeremiah 29:11. Indeed, “all things work together for good to those who love God”Romans 8:28.“They plan and Allah plans, Allah is the best of planners”-Quran 8:30. God is not an option, He is a necessity, for “unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build”-Psalm 127:1.Therefore, “trust in the Lord with all your heart do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take”-Proverbs 3:5-6. Keep in mind, that God always has something for you, a key for every problem, a light for every shadow, a relief for every sorrow and a plan for every tomorrow.


We have discussed ten important keys to unlocking the best in you for your individual and cooperative success. In all of these, remember that nothing good is ever easy. The road to success is not a broad way; it takes patience, discipline and perseverance to journey through it. “Rome was not built in a day” neither was “Russia built in a rush”. See you at the top.

Published: Badejo Adeyemi

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